Open tracheal surgery is complex and requires a specialized surgical center and a highly trained team. The surgeons in Dallas within the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Baylor University Medical Center all are skilled in advanced airway surgery, which is only performed a select centers in the country.
Surgery on the trachea involves removal (resection) of the diseased segment followed by reattachment of the ends of the airway (reconstruction). This is the preferred method of treating cancerous diseases, as well as benign diseases that have not responded to less-invasive techniques. Sometimes there is a need for a temporary or permanent tracheostomy, a surgically created opening in the neck for breathing.
Surgical resection and reconstruction is most often done through an incision in the neck, but occasionally requires extension of the incision into the chest through a sternotomy, or dividing the upper part of the breast bone. Diseases of the lower airway, or bronchi, can be approached through the side of the chest, dividing the muscle between the ribs (thoracotomy), and it sometimes can be performed in a minimally invasive fashion (video-assisted thoracic surgery, VATS).